The next day, Qin Ye went to school as per normal despite the fact that it was a Saturday. After all, what was a “Saturday” to the seniors of the school? It was a concept that didn’t exist.
After the first class of the day, two well-built figures found their way before Qin Ye’s desk. The other students immediately made way for them as though there was a tacit understanding among all of them.
Zhang Yilong, Wang Chenghao.
The swelling on their faces still hadn’t gone down, yet they continued to stage fierce expressions on their face. It was ridiculous and hilarious.
As precedent would have it, the person these students stood in front of invariably determined their choice of target for “venting their frustrations”. However, this was an exception to the norm.
Both students looked at Qin Ye with a complicated look on their face. Qin Ye furrowed his brows, “What’s up?”
Given that the evil spirit had already been disposed of, Qin Ye no longer had any reason to put up with his pretences. Thus, if the two students were merely looking for trouble, Qin Ye had no qualms confronting it straight on. In fact, he would now naturally be unable to guarantee that the two students would return in one piece.
However, there was simply no response. Several moments later, Wang Chenghao raised his eyebrow and pointed out with his thumb, “Shall we go for a walk?”
“Wang Chenghao, what’s the meaning of this? We’ve still got lessons to attend.” A girl with a ponytail at Qin Ye’s table uttered nervously with a low voice, yet she didn’t dare to make eye contact with them.
After all, the phrase “taking a walk” was far too laden with hidden implications.
“Mind your own business!” Zhang Yilong’s cowardly disposition from last night had completely vanished. When he glared straight into the female student’s eyes, she immediately shut her mouth and grew taciturn.
“It’s fine.” Qin Ye stood up, smiled and nodded to the female student, “Thank you.”
The three of them made their way to the school’s rooftop. It was very windy there. Qingxi County belonged to the Xichuan Province. In this region, the sun rarely made an appearance in the sky, and the sky would invariably look as dark and overcast as the bottom of an urn - even in summer.
“Scram.” There were several students on the rooftop when they first arrived. Yet with one command from Wang Chenghao, the rooftop cleared out almost instantaneously.
He didn’t address his agenda immediately. Instead, he simply opened a pack of cigarettes and nodded at Qin Ye, “Want one?”
Qin Ye glanced at the two students suspiciously. These students were the archetypical brawny hooligans that partook in all types of vices, whether smoking or drinking. They were practically evildoers - thorns in the sight of all teachers in school. They were notorious in Qingxi High School for their errant ways. To make matters worse, there were rumours that Wang Chenghao’s family was rather influential, and that his father was the richest man in the county. Therefore, nobody dared to interfere with their affairs.
This… one night stand… no… after just one night of emotionally-charged interactions, were they now extending their invitation to him to join their intimate brotherhood?
Qin Ye casually picked up a cigarette and lit it up, and the three students smoked in sullenness and frustration. The bell for the next class soon rang, and Qin Ye got up and motioned to leave. Just then, Wang Chenghao finally spoke up, “Hang on.”
“It’s time for class.”
“It’s gym class!” Wang Chenghao took another deep drag on his cigarette. Then, almost as though he had matured a fair bit, he muttered, “Previously… there’s been some misunderstanding between us. From today onwards, I’ll look after you. Anyone who doesn’t see eye to eye with you doesn’t see eye to eye with me. As for me… I’ve only got one question…”
“Last night… What in the world happened last night?”
Qin Ye blinked at him, “What do you remember?”
Wang Chenghao’s body trembled, and he buried his head in his hands, voice quivering, “I only remember… the door and windows suddenly slamming shut.... Phone… that’s right! The phone kept ringing incessantly! Then, what happened next?”
As soon as he began recollecting the incidents of last night, he immediately became far more verbose than before. When he looked up once more, his eyes had already become red and bloodshot, “Then, what happened? What happened next? Last night… did we see…”
His voice softened to a whisper, and it took him several seconds to utter the rest of the sentence, “Did we see… something unclean?”
“How did the school find out about these things? And why didn’t they inform the students about it?! How dangerous is that?! F**k!” Zhang Yilong snuffed out his cigarette violently as he recalled to mind the horrific incident last night. His entire body was trembling ferociously as he took out his phone and added, “Look… I looked up the forums of several other cities, and I discovered that we’re not the only ones - these damned announcements are being played everywhere!”
“And it’s not just schools - it’s being played in factories, offices, shops, public streets, and even remote neighbourhoods!”
“Qin Ye, what in the world happened last night? You know it full well don’t you? You must know! Your family is in the funerary industry after all!”
What has being in the funerary industry got to do with all these?
Should a finance student naturally become a finance minister?
His heart was filled with grievances and complaints. Yet, when he noticed the frightened and bewildered expressions in the other students’ eyes, something came over him, and he finally relented. Sighing, he received Zhang Yilong’s phone and took a look.
“Shocking sighting at Westriver City’s First Public Hospital! Last night, all of the patients heard someone performing a Huangmei Opera at 2 a.m. in the morning in a completely empty corridor! This phenomenon went on until 5 a.m.! Some patients looked out of their window, yet not a single person could be spotted!”
“Absolutely bizarre! Everyone, look at this picture that my aunt took yesterday. Eight months’ pregnant, yet the fetus already possesses a fully grown man’s face! Tagged location - Third Hospital, Linshan City.”
“It’s the dead! It’s the dead! Last night at midnight, two luxury cars collided with each other on the bridge that crosses the Yellow River! Yet, just half an hour later, one of them actually turned into a paper car! My neighbour’s grandaunt’s third husband was there at the scene! I’ve seen the video footage!”
There were many similar news articles.
Perhaps the number of news articles couldn’t be considered substantial in the grand scheme of the sheer number of forum posts. Nevertheless… this was still Cathay after all!
Reports of superstitious matters or supernatural activities were hardly heard of these days. In the past, whenever these posts appeared, the videos, articles and the like would immediately be reported and censored without recourse. But now, it was almost as though such news were once again being condoned - even encouraged.
And this went beyond mere forums. As Qin Ye browsed through the various news site, he discovered that even several mainstream media such as the “Qiandu News”, “Tidal Wave News” and “Penguin News” had also been reporting similar events.
The world is changing…
He didn’t know why. But having lived for such a long time now, he was sensitive to such changes, and he knew that this was one of the first symptoms of a tidal wave of changes.
Even the media is starting to endorse such news… what in the world is happening to Cathay?
“Qin Ye… Qin Ye! Say something!” Wang Chenghao’s anxious and unsettled voice disrupted his train of thought. Qin Ye returned the phone and responded thoughtfully, “I don’t know either.”
“The only advice I can give you right now is to comply with the government’s instructions. There are some things in this world that just can’t be explained by science. I believe we’ve all experienced it… It's more prudent to believe in these things than otherwise.”
When all was said and done, the bullshit that Qin Ye spouted was neither useful nor helpful. However, the two students nevertheless nodded their heads obsequiously, almost as though they were offered a life buoy amidst tumultuous waters.
After all, there were many times when people weren’t really seeking the truth, and all they wanted to hear were words of consolation. They wanted to have conviction and be able to believe, regardless of what the truth might be.
“Then, I’ll take my leave first.” Qin Ye patted his buttocks as he stood up once more. However, Wang Chenghao suddenly added, “Qin Ye… do you know of a way to deal with these things?”
“You’re afraid that they’ll come after you again?” Upon closer inspection, Qin Ye noticed that Wang Chenghao truly appeared rather striking and imposing. Wang Chenghao stood at 1.8m tall. Even after last night’s frightful event, his complexion was still rosy, and he was still filled with vigor.
“No.” Wang Chenghao bit down on his teeth as he mumbled, “It’s not me… It’s… my family… has been a little bit off lately…”
“I don’t have any means to help you.” Qin Ye opened the door and walked out, “Such matters should be left to the professionals. An amateur like me might only cause more trouble.”
It was difficult to be a senior in school. Time flew by in the blink of an eye. At 5 p.m. sharp, yet another wave of announcements was made. Just as Qin Ye mounted his bike, he suddenly paused and listened more closely.
The announcements are different from yesterday.
“...If you are still on campus, please leave the school by 6.10 p.m. by hook or by crook. From today onwards, the school will be commencing renovation works in all of the unoccupied classrooms. Entry into classrooms which have been sealed off is strictly forbidden. Any trespassers will immediately be expelled.”
“All staff on duty are to return to their rooms by 7 p.m. and remain within their rooms. Anyone spotted outside by our CCTV cameras will summarily be dismissed…”
“The school shall not be held responsible for any losses incurred by persons failing to comply with the school’s regulations.”
He paused for a long time before mounting his bicycle and cycling home once more. However, his brows remained furrowed this whole time.
It’s really different…
Only those who had experienced it could tell that the renovations were a lie - it was a mere cover up!
Something unpredictable was happening to the entire country of Cathay, and it was affecting every single county, and even every single village. Incidents like that which they experienced last night must be happening everywhere around the nation. The forum posts were nothing but starters. Cathay was presently giving their citizens a buffer period as they contemplated their next move. Were they going to subsequently make an announcement or take a stand on these issues?
It was important to maintain stability within their nation. Cathay was a superpower with over a billion citizens after all. The consequences of chaos would be absolutely unfathomable. That said, the Cathayan government had evidently started to compromise on some fronts as well. This naturally meant that the magnitude of the supernatural upheaval concealed behind the fog of bureaucracy… was probably hundreds or even thousands of times worse than he imagined!
Furthermore, the change in the content of today’s broadcasted announcement could only mean one thing--
Things were quickly escalating out of control! It was like a rabid horse that had broken loose of its yoke and was going on a rampage!
In just one week, from the initial schedule of one announcement per day, to the endless repetition of announcements after 6 p.m. three days ago, to now...the school had even begun to withdraw its employees and staff!
All of this pointed to the severity of the matter.
“I wonder if the other countries know about....just what’s going on in here?” As the wind whistled past his head, Qin Ye sighed wistfully, “I don’t know, but there must be someone who does!”
His gaze stretched into the distance, where the outskirts of the county was located, “The Haunter in the pokeball… no, that old granny ghost must know something about this!”
“Tonight at twelve, huh…”
He arrived home in no time. Yet as soon as he stepped into his own home, that frosty look in his eyes immediately melted. He even began to suspect that he was being oversensitive about the entire incident.
As soon as he opened the door, he noticed that the coffin in the center lay wide open, and a square piece had been cut right out of the coffin. Four old ladies were each seated on one side of the square piece of the coffin. The old granny’s hand was holding tightly onto something, and her expression was unimaginably frigid. Several seconds later, she pushed it onto the makeshift coffin table, “Two coins.”
I’m out there painstakingly earning a living, yet you’re in here pretending to look pretty?
Excellent, you’ve even mastered the art of identifying those mahjong tiles by feel? And who are these other old ladies? Why haven’t I seen them before? Did you actually manage to hook up with ladies from the other neighbourhoods? By the way, is it really a good idea to play mahjong on a coffin in such an idyllic and innocent manner?
The begrudging spirit within him was roiling, and his heart was filled with displeasure. Finally, he managed to forcibly suppress the rage in his heart.
He had no choice. There were others around, and the old granny also appeared to be hiding a wealth of formidable abilities. It was therefore prudent to suppress his anxiety and endure for now…
“Pong.” The lady on the other end of the table revealed three matching tiles, “I’m waiting on a single tile.”
“How can you be so fast?!” “Are you cheating?” “If you have one bams or two bams, you’d better discard them now. I’m already waiting, but I’ll discard them if I have to. I can’t afford to mess with this fierce old lady. One bams.”
The old granny took a drag on her cigarette before discarding a one bams tile. Unfortunately, her expression froze in the very next instant.
“I’ve won. All Pong Hand, Clean Hand, and I was waiting for a single one bams tile. The dues for this round are thirty million.” The old lady seated opposite smiled widely, accentuating the wrinkles on her face as she revealed her mahjong tiles. 
How could you play with such high stakes?! Hang on a minute...how are you going to even pay thirty million?
Before Qin Ye could exclaim aloud, the old granny slapped a hundred million note onto the coffin board heroically as she exclaimed, “Go buy yourself a nice coffin.”
This was paper money with one hundred million printed on it.
Qin Ye blinked several times. Then, as he took a closer examination of the four old ladies, he drew a deep breath, and took several steps back.
Apart from the old granny, the other ladies...didn’t have legs at all!
Everything from their calves down was completely illusory. Even their toes didn’t touch the ground!
This was... a game of ghastly mahjong!